David and Goliath stories always brighten up the racing world, and the story of Suzuki’s 2020 world championship MotoGP success – its first since 2002 – is one such tale. The Hamamatsu manufacturer has a much smaller race department that Honda, Ducati and Yamaha and punches above its weight thanks to people who know how to make the most of what they’ve got – financially, mechanically and philosophically.
Suzuki suffered in the early years of four-stroke MotoGP, when its GSV-R was left behind by Honda’s RC211V, Ducati’s Desmosedici and Yamaha’s YZR-M1. Factory engineers had badly underestimated what was needed, so that they lost one of their brightest, Australian Warren Willing, long before the inaugural race in 2002.
“I asked Suzuki about their four-stroke development, ‘Are you doing this or that?’,” remembered Willing, architect of the factory’s final success in the two-stroke 500cc era. “They said, ‘No, it’s not necessary’. So I said, ‘Well, Honda are doing this and that’. ‘No, no,’ they said, ‘Our technology is more advanced than Honda’s’. I said, ‘Really, how come?’ And they said, ‘Because our GSX-R1000 streetbike outsells Honda’s CBR1000’. So I turned to Garry [Taylor, Suzuki’s team manager at the time] and said, ‘Sorry, I’m out of here’.”